Tuesday, November 23, 2010

This new parking management guide is a gem

This new parking management guide is a gem
Parking Management: A Contribution Towards Liveable Cities was released this month by GTZ's Sustainable Urban Transport Project

You can download it HERE (4MB pdf) or visit the SUTP web site to read a summary before downloading.   

The 50-page booklet is by Tom Rye, Professor of Transport Policy & Mobility Management at Edinburgh Napier University.

It is a wonderful resource, rich with detail on parking management policy options and real-world examples. Even better, it has a special emphasis on the needs of cities outside the 'West', with examples from every populated continent.

I don't agree with everything in it but that doesn't stop me from recommending it whole-heartedly. I would urge anyone with an interest in better parking policy to download it and digest it carefully.

I will try to post a detailed review when I get some time.

For now I will just mention that, in terms of the parking policy 'paradigms' discussed in this post, GTZ's sourcebook is firmly in the 'parking management' camp in which parking is viewed as a tool for serving wider goals in transport policy and urban planning. If you like the sound of that, you will like this booklet.

This is the poster on Parking Management by GTZ which was shown
at the recent Better Air Quality Asia Conference in Singapore. 
Click the image to magnify. 
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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Presentations from Melbourne's "High Cost of Free Parking" seminar

Presentations from Melbourne's "High Cost of Free Parking" seminar
On the 4th of November, Australia's Institute for Sensible Transport (gotta love the name!) hosted a parking policy seminar at the Melbourne Town Hall with the title "The High Cost of Free Parking".

As the name suggests*, a highlight was the keynote by Professor Donald Shoup of UCLA. Also featured were Profs Graham Currie and William Young from Monash University.

You can now download presentations and audio files from the event from HERE.

The downloads available include:
  • A podcast of Professor Shoup's keynote address
  • Two Shoup presentations: One on parking pricing policies and one on minimum parking requirements.
  • A podcast of Professor Currie's keynote address
  • Prof Currie's presentation on the impact of the Melbourne car parking levy
  • GTA Consultants presentation on car parking strategies in activity centres

While in Australia, Prof Shoup also spoke at the 12th Australian Parking Convention and Trade Exhibition (APC2010) which was held in Sydney on 7 to 9 November.


*  "The High Cost of Free Parking" is the title of Shoup's now famous book on parking policy.


Update: fixed a broken link to the Town Hall seminar.
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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Parking basics: contingency-based planning in parking policy

Parking basics: contingency-based planning in parking policy
Many municipalities would like to lower their minimum parking requirements a little to make them less excessive or to make them better match the local conditions of each site. This might seem a small and easy reform but even this most modest of parking policy changes often provokes controversy, with fearful voices raising the specter of parking chaos.

This is where "contingency-based planning" can help. Here is Todd Litman's Online TDM Encyclopedia to explain:
Contingency-Based Planning is a Planning strategy that deals with uncertainty by identifying specific responses to possible future conditions. ...
A contingency-based plan typically consists of various if-then statements that define the solutions to be deployed if certain problems occur: if parking supply proves to be inadequate then we will implement certain strategies, and if those prove to be insufficient then we will implement an additional set of strategies. 
For example, a Contingency-Based parking plan might initially allow developers to build fewer parking spaces than required by conventional minimum parking standards, with a list of solutions that will be applied if that proves inadequate and motorists experience significant problems finding parking or neighbors experience parking spillover problems. 
These solutions might include a combination of additional capacity (some land might be reserved for future parking lots, or a potential budget identified to build a parking structure, if needed), various Parking Management strategies (such as programs to encourage employees to use alternative modes, arrangements to share parking facilities with nearby buildings, and increased regulation and pricing of onsite parking), and improved enforcement if needed to address any spillover problems.

Contingency planning allows extra supply to become a last resort not the default choice.

So requiring 'potential parking' rather than parking itself (as I mentioned in a recent post) is one example of contingency-based planning applied to parking. 

In response to that same post, Donald Shoup emailed to point to an example from the Silicon Valley which is mentioned in his 2005 book:
To deal with the uncertainty in predicting the demand for parking, some cities allow developers to provide fewer parking spaces if they set aside land that can later be converted to parking if demand is higher than expected. Palo Alto, California, allows reductions of up to 50 percent in parking requirements if the difference is made up through a landscaped reserve, and none of these landscaped reserves have subsequently been required for parking. One apartment development was granted a request to defer 22 of the 95 parking spaces required by city code, using the land instead for a family play lot, a barbeque area, and picnic benches, Nearly 15 years after construction, the landscape reserve has not been needed for parking, and the open space constitutes an important environmental and social benefit for the community.
[See page 43  (and a chapter endnote from there) in the High Cost of Free Parking.]

Litman's Online TDM Encyclopedia page provides an example of a contingency-based parking management plan for a development that has been permitted to provide fewer parking spaces than traditionally required. It lists 20 interventions that could be tried (in phases) if any parking problems emerge. These would be tried BEFORE considering resorting to increasing supply. They include:
  • Improve parking information with signs and a parking facility map.
  • Shift from dedicated parking spaces to “open” (shared) parking spaces in each lot.
  • Impose 2-hour limitations on the most convenient parking spaces.
  • Encourage employees to use less convenient parking spaces.
  • Improve enforcement of parking regulations and fees.
  • Establish an evaluation program, to identify impacts and possible problems.
  • Price the most convenient parking spaces.
  • Arrange shared parking agreements with neighbors that have excess parking supply.Install bicycle storage and changing facilities.
  • Establish a commute trip reduction program.
  • Gradually and predictably increase parking fees (e.g., 10% annual price increases).
  • Improve area walkability and address security concerns.
  • Provide real-time information on parking availability using changeable signs 
  • Develop overflow parking plans for special events and peak periods.
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Friday, November 19, 2010

Should all parking be easily convertible to something else?

Should all parking be easily convertible to something else?
Yesterday, I suggested an alternative to minimum parking requirements: requiring a certain amount of space in a building site be convertible to parking. I wondered if this could help wean cautious municipalities away from excessive minimum parking requirements.

That prompted me to speculate about the CONVERSE.  Should we require that parking be easily and cheaply convertible to something else? 

Could the parking levels in this condo easily be converted to other uses if car ownership drops in the future?

How could it work? 

Maybe an addition to building codes could require developers to submit a plan explaining the renovation steps that would convert the parking to general floor space. A cost estimate for these steps  would need to be below some reasonable threshold.

But why bother?

The idea is to reduce the extent to which the parking supply is locked into the landscape. This could be very important in places without much surface parking, such as many parts of many Asian cities where most parking is within buildings (in basements or parking floors above ground) and sometimes in stand-alone structures. Some of these cities are currently requiring 2 or more car parking spaces per 100 square metres of built space. Are we sure they will need that much for the lifetimes of those buildings?

If you live in a city where most parking is surface parking then you may not see an issue here. However, some layouts of surface parking relative to buildings would be easier to build on than others.

Making parking space easier to convert would be prudent if there is a good chance of a significant drop in demand within the next decade or two. An epidemic of Shoupista reforms could do that? So might peak oil or serious climate change policy action. Pedestrianization of city-centre streets can also leave parking facilities stranded, so car parks in such locations would be good candidates to be designed for easy conversion.  

How much would this add to the initial cost of a parking facility? I am not sure.

If the extra costs are relatively low but the chances of a big drop in parking demand seem high enough within a short enough time horizon, then requiring convertibility might be a good idea. I haven't done any such calculations yet but it seems like something worth thinking about.

Does the real estate industry currently foresee a big risk that today's parking supply may end up being surplus to requirements? I don't think so. What would it take for such a risk to prompt voluntary efforts to design parking for convertibility? What would it take for parking convertibility to be a selling point for buildings?

Has anyone heard of examples anywhere in the world?

I know that  a few years ago several shopping centres in Singapore did convert some of their basement parking into retail space. Junction 8 in Bishan is one example, I am told. This came after Singapore lowered its minimum parking requirements. Owners of existing buildings are allowed to reduce their  parking if it is in excess of the new standard. I don't know how challenging these Singapore conversions were or how expensive. Maybe this suggests that conversion is already relatively easy?

Anyone?

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Require "potential parking" rather than parking itself?

Does abolishing minimum parking requirements (as Donald Shoup suggests) sound too radical? Is there a low-risk alternative?

Maybe local governments don't really need to require parking itself. Maybe they could simply require POTENTIAL parking?

I am imagining a municipality that still wants to make sure parking supply meets demand and wants to avoid the risk that the parking associated with a new development spills beyond its parking lot into the streets or into neighboring lots.

I can imagine a conservative version of this idea, in which a city allows developers to have less parking than the current minimum but the city reserves the right to later (and at short notice) require that the on-site parking supply be increased (up to the current minimum for example) if there is evidence of any serious spillover. Such a policy would allow developers to start with modest parking supply but they would have a strong incentive to design their sites in ways that allow parking to be easily expanded.

A more ambitious and reformist version could simply require that the site have a certain amount of 'potential parking' (space which could be 'easily' converted to parking space) but then leave it to building managers whether they ever actually do any such conversion. This would be closer to a Shoupista-style deregulation and abolition of parking requirements, except that the risk of getting locked into a serious shortage is reduced. Of course, we would need to define what we mean by 'easily' converted.

This is not a new idea, by the way.

It seems to be an old one which has been forgotten. The suggestion to require convertible space rather than parking itself was apparently first made by a young Gabriel Roth in his 1965 Hobart Paper, Paying for Parking.  Roth's paper should be downloadble via VTPI - go to the bibliography at the bottom. However, I can't get the link to work right now so maybe it is broken.

I think the idea deserves more attention and debate. 

Does it sound feasible to you? Could a suburban municipality be open to requiring potential parking instead of requiring parking itself? If anyone knows of any analysis of this proposal or something similar I would love to hear about it.

I also wonder why Roth's original suggestion was ignored? (or did I just fail to find the debate?) Was it because his publisher was a right-wing voice in the wilderness at the time?
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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Calcutta's on-street parking "extortion rackets"

Calcutta's on-street parking "extortion rackets"
When the "parking meters" are human beings, they actually notice for themselves when the parking is saturated. As you might expect, this makes raising prices rather tempting. Indeed, something like this is happening in the streets of India's large cities.

If you are a Shoupista, then it sounds perfect to adjust prices when the parking is full.  Shoupistas are supporters of Prof Donald Shoup's parking policy ideas, which include performance-pricing for on-street parking spaces.

There is just one problem. Raising the prices is against the law.

Here is a current example from Calcutta (Kolkata) in India, as reported in The Telegraph (Calcutta) newspaper. The outcomes are far from perfect. (Note that currently US$1 = Rs 44 or so):
Extortion rackets thrive in broad daylight across the city in the name of car parking. The rackets — run by cooperatives issued licences by the civic body, in collusion with police and local goons — force car owners to shell out exorbitant sums...
Metro visited three such parking zones where owners have to pay between Rs 20 and Rs 50 per hour for parking their cars. The hourly rates fixed by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation are Rs 7 for cars and Rs 3 for motorcycles.
There are more details in the rather breathless report.

Sadly, the nasty side-effects here certainly outweigh any benefits from 'rational pricing'.
  • The 'human parking meters' (employees of the cooperatives with contracts to run the parking) have become criminals. 
  • The report alleges that the local police have also been corrupted and even count cars in order to estimate their cut. 
  • Presumably the agency overseeing the parking contracts has also been compromised by graft. 
  • Since these extra parking payments have no legal sanction, only some not-so-subtle intimidation persuades motorists to pay. There is potential for real nastiness that would make the Parking Wars TV show look tame. 
  • Finally, most of the money paid is rewarding crime rather than helping to pay for much-needed services.  

These are not good outcomes!  

The journalist seems to see think better enforcement is the answer. Good luck with that when all the incentives point towards the corrupt outcome that he so vividly reports.

Maybe a better way would be to reduce the temptation to corruptly raise prices? But how?


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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The opportunity cost of parking illustrated

The opportunity cost of parking illustrated
What a wonderful example to highlight the opportunity cost of parking space!
 

This photograph from my trip to Guangzhou last year just popped up on my screensaver and I couldn't resist blogging it quickly. 

Almost ANY space that we now devote to parking could be used for something else (either full-time or part-time as may be the case in this photo). 

This shot was taken at the edge of one of Guangzhou's 'urban villages'. This one near the Guangzhou BRT line is built up at incredibly high densities with 5 to 10 storey buildings (like those on the left) packed tightly together in a maze of narrow alleyways. I think mainly migrant workers from the countryside live here.

Car ownership is very low so here we see people putting the planned parking area to better uses. I assume both the pool games and the childrens' bouncy game involve some kind of payment per use. I suspect that the parking here doesn't. 

It makes you think.  Can we organize parking policy so that we only devote space to parking when it really is the most valuable use? How can we make parking compete with the other possible uses of the space?
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Monday, October 25, 2010

What to look forward to at Reinventing Parking

What to look forward to at Reinventing Parking
What parking issues and ideas can you expect to find here in coming months?

I am back from a break and will be getting back into regular posting here. To kick things off again, here is a little preview of parking issues I hope to tackle here soon.

Tips on any of these topics would be helpful! Topic requests are also welcome.

A parking curiosity: Median parking in Melbourne's CBD
  • Does parking-free housing require car-free residents? My answer: not really.
  • Which level of government controls on-street parking policy? You might be surprised how this works in some countries.
  • Eric Bruun's and Vukan Vuchic's "Time-Area" perspective on the space-efficiency of transport modes highlights the importance of parking, especially work parking
  • Herman Knoflacher's ideas on parking policy go beyond his 'Gehzeug' (or walkmobile) stunts
  • Japan's unusual approach to minimum parking requirements: They are low. They exempt most small buildings. And they phase in gradually for medium-sized buildings.
  • Can Elinor Ostrom's Nobel Prize-winning ideas on the collective management of common pool resources shed light on parking? Short answer: almost certainly, yes.
  • Does performance-based parking pricing require high-tech?
  • Why does parking space so often NOT count as part of the allowable gross floor area (GFA) of buildings which is limited under zoning ordinances? Should it? How powerfully do such exemptions incentivize excessive parking supply?
  • The influence of land value taxation and property taxes on parking supply. The lack of land value taxation is another powerful force for excessive parking supply in most cities.
  • Parking, trams and traffic flow. Melbourne's 'clearways' controversy
  • Westminster's 'Easyjet' style parking pricing experience (if I can find any recent information! Help anyone? How did it go?)
  • The debate over time limits versus pricing for turnover
  • More in the Parking (r)evolution in Bogotá series from Carlos Pardo. His first post was very popular!
  • More guest posts from other folks I hope.
  • Exploring the strange thinking that makes parking price regulation seem logical
  • Parking meters (and other on-street parking payment systems) around the world
  • Surprise! Parking maximums don't cap parking
  • Office-building minimum parking requirements in international perspective
  • A call for community studies of 'cruising for parking'. New York City's Transportation Alternatives has shown how. Their method could be copied easily.
  • Is residential parking fair game for pricing solutions?
  • More on the implications of the India Supreme Court's recent ruling on parking
  • More in the "Parking basics" series. Look out for posts on: convertibility; shared parking; reducing kerb cuts (or curb cuts or 'cross-overs'); unbundling.
  • Another series idea:  "Unhelpful parking policy terms, phrases and platitudes". How about 'Free Parking' and 'Spillover' for starters?
  • Housing affordability in Asia (looking into the parking policy connections obviously)
  • Does performance-based parking pricing really frighten away customers?
  • A closer look at proof-of-parking regulations, like Japan's
  • Form-based codes and parking reform: missed opportunities?
  • Parking and car-sharing
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